ON TOP OF THE WORLD
The luxury business is a curious thing. Like any business, there are issues of costs and quality control, distribution and reputation. Unlike any other business, there is no practical element – it is solely about having fun, feeling good and looking good.
In Europe, there are well-established names and businesses, whose revenues are into the billions of euros, and whose corporate bosses are often found in the company of government ministers and high profile celebrities. In Asia, while consumers are well aware of the world’s biggest names in consumables, the full extent of the luxury business is still struggling to fit in. And, the nature of the business is changing – e-commerce and algorithms are doing as much to alter how people interact with brands as the way in which brands present themselves. How it all shakes out may determine which legendary names make it through the 21st century, and which ones emerge victorious.
Our cover story this issue is Allan Zeman, a name synonymous with some of Hong Kong’s best known destinations: Lan Kwai Fong and Ocean Park. But before the showmanship, the dressing up and later the semiofficial government role, there was a hardworking, driven man eager to succeed and ready to take a chance on equally driven young people who came into his orbit. Zeman pioneered the open desk layout and the co-working concept decades before the whole notion of start ups and entrepreneurship took Hong Kong by storm.
Zeman is also both a purveyor and consumer of the luxury business. A desire to eat out in quality, westernstyle restaurants led to his Lan Kwai Fong business. A passion for being on the water led to him becoming a yacht owner, while also owning a shipyard in Aberdeen. His story is an interesting look at what it took to bootstrap your way to success before the internet and angel investors were around.
Elsewhere in this issue, Stuart Heaver takes a look at how China’s yacht builders have struggled and survived in the era of Xi Jingping and the crackdown on conspicuous consumption. Just after the Global Financial Crisis, the world’s yacht brands came to China, desperately seeking buyers. China’s newly wealthy businessmen were eager to snap up yachts, knowing that it was a great status symbol, but with little appreciation of how to use them. Zhuhai’s city government even tried to encourage a yacht building park in its district.
Today, the situation is trickier – the clampdown on spending has put a freeze on the market, but China’s builders are doing their best to expand overseas, and a few are making serious inroads into the world’s most demanding market.
We also feature Hermes CEO Axel Dumas, the sixth generation of the Hermes family to helm the legendary brand name. Hermes has gone from a relatively staid luxury brand in the 1970s to an international powerhouse. Dumas is keenly aware of his responsibilities to preserve the name, while at the same time addressing the challenges coming from the digital age of the 21st century.
We also get the story of Goxip, an Asia-based start up by Juliette Gimenez, which helps young fashion shoppers achieve the look they want using search algorithms. Young, dynamic and agile, she is launching an Asia based challenge to the established world of fashion that rests on clever programming rather than the wit of a single designer. How her world interacts with that of the Hermes of the world will be the battle of luxury to come. RYAN SWIFT